The economic horizon remains dim at best, so many feel the need to cut out annual high-budget vacations. But even during a financial crunch, we all deserve to have some fun, so become a tourist in your own town! Maggie Daniels, associate professor of tourism and events management, did some brainstorming with her tourism and recreation colleagues to come up with some staycation ideas for the Mid-Atlantic region. Read on for their top staycation destinations, broken down into five day trips. And while these specific locales are all in the Washington, D.C., area, Mason alumni and friends across the country will find the general themes a useful starting point.
Day Trip 1: Frequent Festivals
Even if you didn’t get to the national Mall during the national Cherry Blossom festival in the spring, a walk around the tidal Basin is always a two-mile “explosion of life and color.” Go to the Old Post Office Pavilion for lunch, and then check out the National Portrait Gallery, the U.S. Library of Congress, and the Corcoran Gallery—sites that are less likely to be packed and have special exhibits that make each visit unique.
Day Trip 2: Take a Hike
Drive less than two hours to Shenandoah National Park and feel like you are in another world! With more than 500 miles of hiking trails, as well as opportunities for bicycling, fishing, bird watching, and more, you will feel your stress melt away. More than 50 rare and endangered species have been recorded in the park, so keep your eyes open and you may see a Peregrine Falcon, Shenandoah Salamander, or Cerulean Warbler. Be sure to visit some of the myriad breathtaking waterfalls.
Day Trip 3: Enjoy Fine Wining
After all that hiking, you’ll be ready to sit back and relax. What better way than a day trip to some of the finest vineyards in the country to experience award-winning Virginia wines? Just a few of our favorite local haunts include the Winery at LaGrange, Pearmund Cellars, Linden Vineyards, and Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn. All these wineries have friendly and knowledgeable staff, are saturated with ambience, and have top-quality wines to please your palate. Tours, tastings, and special events abound, so check out the events calendars for these vineyards online.
Day Trip 4: Get Artsy
Treasures large and small can be found in nooks all over the area for collectors of antiques, arts, and crafts. Take a scenic ride into historic Clifton, Virginia, and feel like you are stepping back in time as you explore the town and shops. Be sure to stop at the Heart in Hand for lunch. Head to Leesburg, peruse the many antique shops there, and then go a little farther north for more rare finds in Lucketts. The Occoquan Craft Show (slated for June 5 and 6 this year) is an extravaganza for crafts lovers. Unique shops and wonderful farmers’ markets should be explored in Old Town Alexandria, Old Town Manassas, and Warrenton, also.
Day Trip 5: Take the Plunge
As spring moves into summer, freshwater lakes and water parks offer fun for everyone. We suggest Lake Anna in Virginia and Cunningham Falls State Park in Maryland for natural settings with a multitude of activities. Excellent water parks in the area include Splash Down, Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole, and Downpour.
Mason faculty members Laurie Harmon, Brenda Wiggins, and Min Park also contributed to this story.